Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times has reported that the Los Angeles Angels and embattled outfielder Josh Hamilton have agreed to a comeback plan that could see the 34-year-old Hamilton back on a Major League field by June. Since word of Hamilton’s drug relapse leaked to the public in February, the Angels’ front office has been kicking and screaming about the possibility of allowing him to return to the organization.

The proposed plan will begin with Hamilton being sent to the Angels’ training facility in Arizona to spend two to three weeks in extended Spring Training, with a minor league rehabilitation assignment to follow. The Angels have not formally announced the team’s plan. Shaikin’s source was unwilling to discuss the full details of the plan prior to the Angels’ public announcement of their plans for Hamilton.

This tentative plan does not guarantee Hamilton will suit up for the Angels, but it does give the impression that they are at least open to the possibility. Arte Moreno has repeatedly trashed Hamilton publicly, and has made intimations that he holds an out clause for the remaining $83 million his team is on the hook for over the final three years of Hamilton’s contract. Announcing a rehab plan does nothing to guarantee Hamilton’s status with the Angels.

To me, this rehab plan is yet another ploy by the Angels to buy time while they attempt to wipe what they view as an albatross of a contract from their ledger. Moreno and his front office team have done nothing to distance themselves from the vitriolic comments they have directed at Hamilton since news of his drug relapse broke. Their public trashing of Hamilton is not rooted in any sort of morality or set of principles. Plain and simple, Hamilton has not lived up to his contract on the field, and has not given the team much hope that he will should he return to the Majors. They have been given a possible way out of a bad contract and have seized the opportunity, everything else be damned.

In Hamilton’s absence the combination of Matt Joyce, C.J. Cron, and Collin Cowgill have been absolutely abysmal, with .167, .129, and .192 batting averages, respectively. The trio has combined for two home runs in 99 at-bats. If the Angels do announce a return for Hamilton, they will appear even more transparent in their actions. They are not sticking to their guns and cutting ties with Hamilton over drug abuse. It is about money. If they allow him to return, it is only because he is a less putrid option than the sickly production of Joyce, Cron, and Cowgill.

Josh Hamilton deserves the right to rejoin his teammates, who have stood by him steadfastly throughout the entire process. His own franchise could not offer the same in return. Now that they realize he may not be quite as bad as a trio of Mendoza-line level replacement players, they have given in and appear resigned to allowing him return and play out his contract. A public apology is still owed Hamilton, but I would not hold my breath.

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